How Serious Are The Felony Allegations Facing Alex Zivojinovich?

By Brent Batten, Naples Daily News, January 25, 2004

Rush fans may not take much interest in the legal troubles of a Naples doctor.

But they ought to.

The case of family practitioner Marc Blum serves as a grim instructive on just how seriously the charges facing Rush guitarist Alex Zivojinovich, aka Alex Lifeson, are viewed by the courts.

Blum, found guilty by a jury of battery on a law enforcement officer, was sentenced last week to two years in jail.

Like Zivojinovich, Blum enjoyed a measure of stature in the community.

It wasn't enough to keep him out of jail.

And the news gets worse for the musician and his fans. While Blum was convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest and assault on a law enforcement officer, Zivojinovich faces the more serious charge of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer. If proven, the crime carries a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison.

Minimum mandatory sentences get politicians elected but drive defense attorneys and judges crazy. The law doesn't care if you're a great guy with legions of fans and a world tour coming up. You're going to jail.

Of course, it is not unusual for charges to be reduced as a case makes its way through court. And Zivojinovich's lawyers aren't going to concede anything just yet. They have a room full of well-heeled witnesses to the start of the New Year's Eve altercation at the Ritz-Carlton and some may testify that sheriff's deputies overreacted to the situation that began when Zivojinovich's son, Justin, invited himself on stage.

Much of the action that led to the charges happened in a stairwell, however, meaning the only witnesses will be the dispute's participants.

Juries tend to believe cops.

Even if the Zivojinovich defense team, led by attorney Jerry Berry, is able to keep its client out of jail, there are still ramifications for the band and its followers. Any felony conviction could jeopardize the tour scheduled for this year. In the post 9-11 world, the United States isn't keen on letting foreign criminals into the country. While he owns a home in Naples, Zivojinovich is Canadian.

The reality of the situation serves as a cold slap in the face to area Rush fans confident a rich rock icon with a clean record and top-notch defense lawyers would get off with a light sentence, possibly in the form of a community service concert in our own back yard.

It probably wasn't a realistic idea anyway. During their last tour in 2002, Rush was playing arenas seating 20,000. That's with people paying to get in. A donate-a-can-of-food concert would bring a horde of Rush fans to Collier County.

There aren't a lot of venues here that could handle it.

The Collier County Fairgrounds, for example, had about 8,000 people at X-Fest III in 1999. There wasn't an X-Fest IV there. And remember when the 2000 Phish concert at the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation shut down Interstate 75? That kind of community service we don't need.

Strip the celebrity hype away, and you're left with felony allegations carrying substantial penalties. A Naples doctor can tell you just how serious that can be.

E-mail Brent Batten at